IOWA CITY, Ia. — LeShun Daniels Jr. got caught on a breakaway, but closed out his rushing milestone.
Akrum Wadley finished his long rush with a touchdown.
Guess which Hawkeye running back got teased on the sideline for their success against No. 15 Nebraska on Friday? Apparently 1,000 rushing yards in a season don’t carry the sway they used to.
“Some of the young running backs definitely gave me crap about it,” Daniels said with a laugh after the 40-10 victory in Iowa’s regular season finale.
“It is what it is. Akrum did finish his and I gave him plenty of credit, but I ended up scoring anyway, so it’s alright.”
Daniels and Wadley entered the game as one of three tandems to rush for 800 yards apiece in Hawkeye history, and both emphatically topped 100 yards Friday night with long gains.
Daniels became the first Iowa (8-4, 6-3) rusher to top 1,000 yards in a single season since Marcus Coker accomplished the feat in 2011. And Nebraska (9-3, 6-3) was the second team in the Big Ten to experience both runners crossing the century mark, dashing any remaining Big Ten Championship game hopes.
“I can’t thank the offensive line, the tight ends, the fullbacks and everybody else out there enough for going out there and giving it their all,” Daniels said. “Just blocking for me so I can get yards. Even though they may not get all the glory, I can’t thank them enough, because they’ve done an excellent job all year.”
An offensive line consisting of Boone Myers, Keegan Render, James Daniels, Sean Welsh and Ike Boettger started its fourth game of the season together, which is the most starts of any Iowa assembly this season.
Wadley utilized them on the way to the end zone first, breaking free and juking Cornhusker defenders for a 75-yard sprint on a play that wasn’t even supposed to happen.
Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard admitted after the game he changed the play at the line of scrimmage and had “luck” with its result.
“Half of the line went one way, half the line went the other way,” Beathard said. “Akrum just made a guy miss and turned it.”
That run gave Iowa a 6-0 lead, which held in a chilly game the home team led from wire-to-wire.
“It’s always kind of a shock when plays open up that wide, but we’ve got backs and receivers that can break tackles and make plays,” Myers said. “It makes our jobs easier, as linemen. We don’t have to play as much. It’s great.”
Daniels got loose one quarter later as Nebraska was blocked while blitzing Iowa up front. His 56-yard run toward the south end zone was all open turf until he was caught at the eight-yard line. He punched in his own handiwork with a four-yard run two plays later.
Iowa only completed 10 passes in the win, relying on that “thunder and lightning” approach to plow over the Cornhuskers. Daniels finished with 29 carries for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Wadley added 11 carries for 105 yards and the long score.
“We were surprised,” Beathard said. “We went into the game knowing they were a pretty good run defense and that we were going to have some tough plays. We figured we’d break a couple like we did last year, but obviously we did a good job of having productive runs the entire game.”
The only other Iowa duo splitting 900 yards each in a season came in 1984, with Owen Gill (920) and Ronnie Harmon (907).
Daniels (1,013) and Wadley (966) have now surpassed that and will have a bowl game to try and become the first pair ever to top 1,000 yards each.
At least Daniels gets to brag about that.
“Both of us getting 1,000 yards is something we talked about before the season started,” the senior back said. “We talked a little bit last season — if that was something that could be done. Akrum has done an excellent job the entire year. He’s just a big play waiting to happen. He’ll reach the mark too.”